Angela Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
BULAWAYO has recorded a fourth diarrhoea outbreak since last year with 157 cases having been reported so far in the high-density suburb of Tshabalala Extension.
The last outbreak in the city was in May this year when 50 cases were reported in Emganwini suburb.
The city’s worst outbreak in recent years was reported in June last year, when 13 people died after nearly 2 000 residents fell ill in Luveve after raw sewage contaminated drinking water.
Last year in October about 100 people, mostly children, were treated for running tummies in Mzilikazi and surrounding suburbs.
The diarrhoea outbreaks follow the 2020 Auditor-General’s report tabled before Parliament that stated that Bulawayo is among six local authorities at risk of outbreak of water-borne diseases that could lead to deaths due to failure to manage sewer reticulation systems.
According to residents, the latest outbreak in Tshabalala Extension is believed to have started on Thursday last week after their drinking water was contaminated due to a burst sewer pipe.
Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director Maphios Siamuchembu said they are conducting investigations to ascertain what could be causing the diarrhoea outbreak.
“I can confirm that a diarrhoea disease has broken out in Tshabalala extension. The first patients were seen on Monday and so far, we have a total of 157 cases, of which 106 were attended to at local health facilities,” he said.
Dr Siamuchembu said 31 families were affected by the outbreak with six people having recovered so far.
“The Bulawayo City Council’s health department personnel and our acting provincial epidemiology and disease control officer are actually on the ground treating the patients as well as investigating and making efforts to contain the spread of the disease,” he said.
Dr Siamuchembu urged members of the public to practice hygienic measures as council is working on addressing the water challenge in the suburb.
“I would like to urge members of the public to make sure that they boil the water before drinking as well as practice hand hygiene as they wait for a permanent solution,” he said.
Tshabalala Extension Residents Association chairperson Mr Webster Tsondayi said most residents started experiencing running tummies after drinking council water.
Mr Tsondayi claimed that 500 households were affected, although health authorities said 31 families were affected.
“In fact, there was no water between Monday and Thursday and when it was restored, residents drank it and subsequently fell sick,” he said.
Mr Tsondayi said people were vomiting, experiencing running stomachs and loss of appetite following the outbreak.
A resident, Mr Philemon Charimambowa said they suspect that the problem emanated from a burst sewage pipe which resulted in drinking water being contaminated by effluent.
“When we opened our taps, the water was dirty and muddy such that we even failed to fill up our buckets as we felt that it was unsafe. We then waited for it to settle but little did we know that it was still not safe for drinking,” he said.
Another resident who declined to be named said his entire family was affected by outbreak.
“It started with my daughter then my wife followed and on Saturday I also started having a running tummy, which we initially thought was because of the food that we had consumed. I was actually surprised when I met one of my neighbours at a doctor’s surgery and he was complaining of the same problem,” he said.
A resident who identified herself as MaSibanda said for the past two days she been unwell.
“I am feeling weak such that I can hardly stand on my feet. In fact, I failed to go to the clinic, but it’s better now because we have been examined by the nurses who are moving around and we were given some medication,” she said.
“We are worried that if this problem is not addressed, we are likely to experience the Luveve incident, which resulted in some people succumbing to the disease.”